Choral awards | University of Oxford
Magdalen choir
Magdalen College choir.
(Credit: Owen Rees)

Choral awards

Choral scholarships are awards given to talented singers who wish to develop their choral singing while at Oxford as a member of their college chapel choir. There are 13 colleges in Oxford which offer choral scholarships through the University’s choral scholarship scheme.

What a choral scholarship involves
Choral scholarships available for 2017 and 2018 entry
Choosing which choral scholarship to apply for
Do I have to be at the college where I hold a choral scholarship?
Can I study any subject and hold a choral scholarship?
Can postgraduates apply for choral scholarships?
How to apply
What will I be asked to do at the auditions?
When will I hear the result of the auditions?
How to find out more about choral scholarships

What a choral scholarship involves

The duties of a choral scholar are to sing in the chapel choir of their college. They sing for choral services and concerts, and many of the choirs also undertake tours and make CD recordings. The commitments for choral scholars vary widely between colleges, since some choirs are more active than others. The three all-male choral foundations – Christ Church, Magdalen and New College – offer the busiest choral experience, performing almost every day during term-time. At other colleges the choirs are for mixed voices and sing between one and four services per week during term. Many of the choirs are professionally directed, and others are led by the college organ scholars. Choral scholars are also expected to participate in the wider musical life of their college.

The scholarships carries an annual financial reward, the amount varying from college to college. In addition, at many colleges choral scholars receive funding for singing lessons, and many fine singing teachers work with the Oxford choirs.

The choral awards available for those applying in 2016 are as follows:

College

2017

2018

Key: S=Soprano, A=Alto, T=Tenor, B=Bass
Christ Church*1A, 2T, 1B1B
Exeter6 in totalPlaces not available
through deferred entry
Keble6 in total6 in total
Lady Margaret Hall1S, 1A, 1TPlaces not available
through deferred entry
Magdalen*2A, 2T, 2B2A, 2T, 2B
Merton8 in total8 in total
New College*2A, 1T, 1BPlaces not available
through deferred entry
Oriel6 in total6 in total
The Queen's College8 in total8 in total
St Edmund Hall1S, 1A, 1T, 2BPlaces not available
through deferred entry

St Peter's3S, 4A, 4T, 3B1S, 1A, 1T, 1B
Somerville8 in total2 in total
University Collegetbctbc
Worcester4S, 2A, 2T, 2B4S, 2A, 2T, 2B

*Christ Church, Magdalen and New College are choral foundations, which accept only male choral scholars.

(Information for those applying in 2017 will be published here as soon as it becomes available.)

Choosing which choral scholarship to apply for

You should consider what kind of choral experience you want while you are at Oxford. Decide whether you want to be a member of a choir that sings for a service almost every day or - at the other extreme - once a week. Think about whether you would like to be a member of a choir that has extra commitments beyond service singing, such as a regular schedule of concerts, CD recordings, tours and broadcasts.

Note that only male applicants may apply for choral scholarships at the three Choral Foundations: Christ Church, Magdalen and New College. All the other participating colleges offer choral scholarships to both men and women.

Do I have to be at the college where I hold a choral scholarship?

Yes, you do. Some choirs also have vacancies for singers from other colleges, although these singers do not hold choral scholarships.

Can I study any subject and hold a choral scholarship?

Yes, you can, but it is important to check that all of the colleges which you intend to nominate on your choral scholarship application offer places to read your chosen subject. See which colleges offer your course.

The scholarship will last for the duration of your course. Those who take a year abroad as part of their course will retain their scholarship once they return to Oxford.

Can postgraduates apply for choral scholarships?

The choral scholarships scheme is primarily intended for undergraduates, who will be students at Oxford for three or more years. Those applying to undertake postgraduate study and who are interested in choral scholarships should contact the director of music (or chaplain at colleges where there is no director of music) of the college(s) in which they are interested. Postgraduate lay-clerkships are often available at several colleges. Details can be found on college websites.

How to apply

You must complete and submit an online application form by 1 September in the year in which you are making your academic application to Oxford. Please note that you cannot apply for choral scholarships at both Oxford and Cambridge. On the form you can choose up to ten colleges in preference order, and we recommend that you nominate at least three.

You will also need to arrange for a reference about you as a singer to be sent to the admissions office of your first-choice college by 1 September. This reference can be provided by, for example, your director of music at school, the director of a choir in which you sing, or your singing teacher if you are having lessons. No academic reference should be sent at this time.

There are two parts to the entry procedure to Oxford for choral scholarship applicants: the choral audition (which takes place in late September) and the academic interview (in December – as part of the UCAS admissions process). The choral audition is to assess your vocal and musical aptitude, while for the academic interview you will join all the other candidates competing for places at Oxford.

In 2017 the choral scholarship auditions will take place 20 - 22 September, and you will be required to stay in Oxford between the afternoon of the 20 September and midday on 22 September. You will be accommodated at your first-choice college, which will provide you with a detailed timetable closer to the time.

What will I be asked to do at the auditions?

The main audition lasts approximately ten minutes. In it you will be asked to sing a prepared piece and to demonstrate your musical aptitude through a few vocal exercises, ear tests and sight-singing. The director(s) of music listening to you may ask questions to get a fuller picture of your musical interests and activities. College chaplains may also arrange to interview you during the audition period. Your lower-choice colleges may also ask you to come and sing to them.

When you choose a piece to perform at the audition it is important to bear in mind range and technique. Select music that displays your vocal and musical capabilities to the full, without going beyond what your technique can support. You do not have to perform sacred music. It is better to sing a complete solo than a verse sections from a longer anthem. You will need to bring two copies of your prepared piece (one for the accompanist and another for the examiner) as well as your own copy if you are not singing the piece from memory.

For choral singers a quick ear and an aptitude for sight-reading are both important, especially in choirs that perform a large repertory. These skills need to be developed as much as the voice and vocal technique. They can be improved with steady work. Directors of music are aware that a candidate may have been singing for a relatively short period, and will take this into account. But a candidate ought to have had some systematic singing tuition before the audition.

When will I hear the result of the auditions?

A few days after the choral audition you will receive an email telling you whether you have reached a standard to be considered for a choral scholarship at Oxford. Of course this refers only to the choral scholarship, since there has been no academic interview at this stage. You will then need to submit your UCAS application by the deadline of 15 October.

Remember that a successful choral scholarship audition does not automatically mean that you will be offered a choral scholarship. Although, as a result of that successful audition, you merit further consideration for a choral scholarship, you must now be considered on academic merit for your proposed course at Oxford. You should also note that there can be no guarantee of an offer of a choral scholarship, even if you are successful in gaining an offer of an academic place at an Oxford college: among the choral candidates retained from the September auditions by a particular college there may be a range of vocal ability; inevitably, colleges will fill their choral scholarship vacancies in December with the strongest singers who also gain an academic place at that point. It is only after the full admission procedure and academic interview in December that you will hear whether you have been offered a choral scholarship.

Can I apply for a choral scholarship if I cannot attend the September auditions?

Only those candidates who attend the auditions on 20 - 22 September 2017 can be considered for choral scholarships through the inter-collegiate choral scholarships scheme. If you are unable to attend the auditions at that time (for example because you live overseas), then you are advised to contact your first-choice college for choral scholarships to enquire what other arrangements might be made. Please note that in such a case it would be just your first-choice college for choral scholarships that would be considering you for a choral scholarship. 

How to find out more about choral scholarships

The University choral scholarships open day is held in April each year. The next open day will be 22 April 2017. The day gives you the opportunity to find out more about Choral Scholarships at Oxford and the application process, and to sing with a college choir for Evensong.

Enquiries about choral scholarships may be directed to the University Coordinator of the scheme, Prof. Owen Rees, owen.rees@music.ox.ac.uk, or to the Faculty of Music, office@music.ox.ac.uk.

Details of the choirs and choral scholarships at the colleges which participate in the scheme can be found here:

Christ Church, Exeter, Keble, Magdalen, Merton, New College , Oriel, Queen’s, St Edmund Hall, St Peter’sSomerville, University College and Worcester.